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Extent: Paperback

Pages: 128

Size: 215 x 138 mm

Publisher: Veritas

Customer Reviews

Average rating:

As appeared in Intercom, July/August 2017, 10th Jan 2019

Reviewer: Veritas Publications

I grew up down a country lane in a place not far from Slane in County Meath. Our village has a hill where Patrick’s fire once blazed and a little house where a poet became a soldier who died at Ypres.
Born in 1887, the eighth of nine children, Francis Ledwidge’s story is a chronicle of his age. A bright young boy, he finished school at 14 and went to Rathfarnham as a grocer’s ‘curate’ but one night he quit and walked back home. He became a farm labourer and later got a job at a nearby copper mine from which he was sacked for leading a strike over dangerous conditions.
This beautiful book, compiled by John Quinn, tells how Ledwidge came under the patronage of Lord Dunsany, who opened a vast library to him, which also included Keats and Shelley. The publication cites this testimony from his patron: ‘I was astonished by the brilliance of that eye that had looked at the fields of Meath and seen there all the simple birds and flowers, with a vividness that made those pages like a magnifying glass, through which one looked at familiar things seen thus for the first time’. Generations of school-going children will remember his finest poem ‘He shall not hear the bittern cry’, a lament for Thomas McDonagh.
Ledwidge was an artist and, we can even say, a composer of the soundtrack to our rural setting. His verses recreate the smell of hedgerows and the blackbird’s song at early dawn. But his romanticism was no retreat to a melancholic idyll. Whilst at home, he experienced poverty and heartbreak. He identified with the plight of the working poor and found himself caught up in the national question, torn between his allegiance to the Irish Volunteers and what Seamus Heaney called his ‘moral fortitude’, enlisting as a soldier in the Great War. In Ledwidge’s own words, ‘I entered the British army because she stood between Ireland and an enemy common to our civilisation.’
The selected poems and letters convey the horror of the battlefield and the ever-present reality of d

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Veritas Publications

A Little Book of Ledwidge

by John Quinn


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To commemorate the centenary of Francis Ledwidge's death in the Battle of Passchendaele, John Quinn has compiled a selection of writings, both by Ledwidge and those closest to him. These poems, diary entries and letters follow Ledwidge's life from budding poet in County Meath to soldier facing the horrors of the battle on the western front. We discover, through Ledwidge's colourful verse, his reactions to the world around him, life as an Irish soldier in the British Army during the First World War, and his response to the execution of close friend Thomas McDonagh in the Easter Rising of 1916. Featuring an assessment by Seamus Heaney, this book will make a fine addition to any poetry and history lover's collection.

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